Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vegan Mushroom Soup

With my dad being in the hospital, I decided that I would give my mom a break and cook dinner tonight. It has been really cold today, and I have had a craving for mushrooms, so I decided that I would do a mushroom soup.

I love soup--especially a creamy soup. Since I've been trying to eat better, I thought I'd do a vegan version of mushroom soup. When I make soup, I don't measure anything; I just throw whatever ingredients into the pot. Basically, most of my soups start out the same way: I saute onions and garlic in either olive oil or butter, make a roux (gravy) with a little flour and liquid (cream, milk, broth), add whatever vegetables, more broth and keep it moving.

I did the same thing with this recipe, only I changed a couple of key ingredients. Since I wanted this to be vegan, dairy products were out. I also wanted to make it just a bit heavier since that was going to be the main course. Right now I have a ton of wheatberries on hand. There's only so much flour you can grind, so I figured you have to be able to use these some other way. About three or four months ago, I found a great deal of a book on It's called Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass. This book details how to cook a variety of whole grains--including wheatberries. Wheatberries are fairly easy to cook, but they take about an hour. You basically use 2 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup of berries. Bring them to a boil, and then cover and simmer until they're plump and they kind of split open. While the berries were cooking, I worked on the rest of the soup.

I've been reading a lot about unrefined, virgin coconut oil and its health benefits and decided that I am going to use it as much as I can. Today was no exception. I really like to use coconut oil to saute food. It can tolerate high heat and sautes pretty quickly. I know this is going to sound strange, but it sautees 'cleaner', and doesn't leave the food greasy. Anyway, I took half of a yellow onion, 1 clove of garlic and a stalk of celery and sauteed them until they were tender. While they were sauteeing, I coarsely chopped button and portabello mushrooms. I added them with a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the onions and sauteed them until they turned brown.

I added about a tablespoon of whole wheat flour and my favorite organic vegetable broth to make a roux. I also added my new favorite ingredient: nutritional yeast. If you haven't heard of or tried nutritional yeast, let me tell you, it really makes a sensational gravy! I used it this year to make gravy for my vegan "turkey" for Thanksgiving, and the non-veg folks tore it up. More on nutritional yeast later.

Anyway, once the roux started to thicken, I ladled half of the mixture into another bowl and pureed it with my stick blender. I am so happy to have a stick blender now. I don't know why I didn't have one before--it sure is easier than pulling out a food processor all the time. Plus, I have a tiny kitchen, and too many appliances. After pureering the mushrooms, I added them back to the skillet. By now, the wheatberries were almost done. The interesting thing about wheatberries is that they do not absorb as much water as rice, and they make a type of broth. I strained the berries and reserved the liquid (I had about 2 cups left). I put the berries and mushrooms back in the pot. I added the reserved liquid and a little more of the broth, and brought it back up to a quick boil. I didn't want it too condensed, but I didn't want it runny, either. I let it boil for about 5 minutes just to kind of cook down some of the liquid. Just before I served it, I added some sliced green onions.

This recipe probably sounds complicated, but it really was very simple. I think the most complicated ingredient was the wheatberries--and only because they take so long to cook. I definitely think this recipe would work with wild rice (in fact, I think that would be delicious). And, if you don't want to go the vegan route, you can certainly use chicken stock. You could also use less liquid and make a condensed soup to add to chicken or to make a casserole dish.

Just a note about wheatberries: they have a chewy texture. If you're used to rice, it's not like rice at all. I guess you could say it has a texture sort of like corn. Sounds weird, but I like it (of course, I'm weird, so there you go.) As for taste; well, my mom is my most honest critic. She said the soup was good, but she wasn't so sure about the wheatberries. I think it's just because it's an unexpected taste/texture.

I was going to post a picture, but I forgot charge my camera battery.

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